Saturday, April 29, 2017

2 weekends worth of weekending

what if you could hear me thinking (written July 2015)

We pass my keys around the office all the time. I must hand them off at least a dozen times a shift.

And although the keys are different what I know about them doesn't change.

The thing no one else see is this: exactly 2 years ago I did something very scary relating to those keys....

"...I parked in the gym parking lot, walked Beach in, dropped my car keys inside her team folder in the filing cabinet, let people know where the keys were & where I was going and left on foot to run to the park.

On the way to the park I crossed over the freeway bridge and I thought “car in the lot, keys easy to find, kid in good hands, if I’m going to do this, this would be the time and the place. I should jump- shouldn’t I?

Back when my son was in preschool a mom dropped her child off at school went home put the baby down for a nap and killed herself knowing full well that when she didn't show back-up for pick-up it would trigger, in the shortest period of time, the safe recovery of both of her children. Of course 'safe' minus a dead mom.

The question "should I?" hung high over speeding traffic. So I stopped in the middle of the bridge and waited for the answer to come..."

Yeah, that happened but before we move on, 2 items of business.

1. I published this 2 years ago right after it happened w/out any complaints so I don't want any flack about it now.

2. Secrets, denial, and silence kills people. If you have a question about why I would say that feel free to read and my disclaimer about this space.

My reason for bringing this up isn't about me. It's to remind us that we don't really know what is going on in the lives of most of the people moving around us. Life is bittersweet, beautiful, and times it is really-really hard.

When I place my keys in someone's hand I am reminded of this. And today when I handed them off I made the decision to share this again because July is my hardest month.

This past year has been the worst year of my life, and that is saying a lot. But I'm okay because the people around me are amazing and for the most part they don't even know how much sweetness they have brought into my life.

Which brings us back to the point: sometimes the most important keys to pass between us are the words we aren't speaking.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

stainless steel silence

I remember the elevator doors closing.  We all did what strangers in an elevator do, we picked a spot and stared at it.  A mundane part of the work day and yet that moment is so clear it holds no time stamp.  I can step back into it in an instant. 

It's as if the whole scene plays on a loop in the back of my mind. I know what I was wearing, the time of day, the season, what floor I was on, and which one I was traveling to. 

I can hear the soft hum of the offices that haunt the halls of the school of medicine.  Feel the press of people around me. Taste the hospital air with it's over shampooed carpets and burning dryers cooking the white sheets.  

The doors opened.  People politely parted. I stepped forward into the tiny box and turned around. The doors closed. I looked down at my feet. The elevator moved. Then it stopped.  The bell binged.  The doors opened. I got off on my floor.

It's a ride I have now taken thousands of times.  In fact, I take it whenever there is something I want to say but I find I cannot. When someone is asking me a question I can't answer. I mean really can't, not don't want to, or don't know the answer but physically can't.

The difference is truly clinical. And perhaps a bit ironic for a writer but if you have ever asked me one of these questions you might be able to look back and actually see the struggle.

I open my mouth and nothing comes out. I sigh. I pause. I try again.  I hear the words but I can't break them loose. I shake my head. I try again. Nothing happens and I shake my head "no" or shrug my shoulders, smile or roll my eyes. Utter, "Never mind..." 

It is similar to the feeling of trying to scream to wake yourself from a bad dream.

After 2 therapist failed to help me overcome this mental dam of words a behavioral psychologist gave me a better out than "never mind".  Sort of a push-phrase: "I don't know how to say what I want to say to you." Although "never mind" still shows up quite a bit.

Saying "I don't know how..." works well enough with women. They seem to understand the complexity of carrying thought to expression but with men it tends to crash and burn even before take off.      

What makes that moment in the elevator so fierce is in those few seconds as I looked down at my shoes it was the first time I realized I hadn't been waiting for the right moment or the right person to say something to.  My silence wasn't a choice it was a condition.

In those seconds surrounded by quiet strangers I was pleading with myself to say something- anything.  I remember thinking if I could just find a way to get even some of the words out I would be okay.  Someone would help me...words would save me.

Those words would stay trapped for over 20 years. Words I never managed to completely say to another person- until last night. 

They might have helped, had I been able to find them a voice. Who knows.

Of course, I don't pin so much value on them anymore. The simple act of blurting out in a crowded elevator that I wasn't okay & I needed help might have fast track my journey out of the darkness of my marriage but it won't have "saved" me. 

I know it was much more complicated than that.  I know because when you can't ask for help there are only 2 choices left.  Choice 1 or choice 2. I picked the ladder [sic] of them.  I helped myself out.   

I spent a few years actively trying to find my voice but honestly the times I do manage to break over the dam and awkwardly spit out what I need to say the end result is disappointing. I always figured if you were someone who doesn't ask for help very often when you finally did it would carry some sort of weight- but it doesn't.

I have long since stopped believing in the power of me speaking up for myself or saying how I truly feel. For me it is simply not worth the fight I have to go through to get it out. I figure if it matters it will be without me having to find the words.

But what I haven't given up on are the people I love. 

So last night after a pretty shitty day, standing in the rain at the back of a parking lot I got brave enough to give those words trapped in my head for so long a voice. I admitted face to face to someone else what I am now and where I came from to get here.

Words were all I had to offer to him. 

Words from another decade passing between the doors of someone else's closing elevator.  Someone else's stainless steel silence.

We stood facing each other under a sky that cried for us. Each of us standing in our own tiny metal box. I was talking but I don't think he could hear me over the dark storm raging inside his own head. 

I found the strength to do something for someone else I couldn't do for myself and in the end it didn't really matter.  My words fell at his feet in puddles with the rain.

I think about how with the dam finally broken there are all these other stories now free for me to tell. 

It's bittersweet. Letting go always is.  After all this time I have the voice to say a lot of things but I won't.  Not because I can't, because I don't want to.

I simply don't have anything else I need to say.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

dry air

I sit and listen. 

Sunlight from the bathroom window pinging off the porcelain sink.  It falls out the open door and lays itself down across the rug. 

The girls are still sleeping.  BC gone. The house is whispering. 

I take a breath enjoying the peacefulness. 

I am sick and my chest hurts.  The air in my lungs feels like dust. It reminds me of something.  In the silence it only takes a moment to know exactly what: a conifer covered trail bathed in afternoon light. A forest cooking with pine, trail dust, and sweat. Stupid Salt Lake Overlook, I mutter.

But that's how I know winter is truly over...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

into the bookyard

Yesterday I ran out of books to read. So I went searching about the house. Usually I have piles of books stashed in corners.  They tip and teeter like sandstone rock cairns.

I looked everywhere for one. Shifted neatly folded clothing on their shelf. Lifted covers to peer under beds. Eventually I gave up and went for the bookcase. The place old books go to die. 

I ran my finger along the spines of the books all crammed there together- just in case there was one that got away.  One that was still alive. 

Behind me, a trail of dust fairies and dead, black words. Between them a faint memory of walking among the medical stacks looking for a text I needed.

From our shelf I pulled out Auden. "Into this neutral air."
I pulled out Frost.  " dawn goes down to day."
I pulled out Irving. "It was a sound like someone trying to not make a sound."
I pulled out Krakauer. "But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind."

At that I stopped searching for what wasn't here.

I paused already knowing what it meant and what the next day would be and the one after that.

How I will slip out the back door into the wet morning air. At an hour when you can close your eyes and the city still weighs like the desert before dawn. Sore, and sort of already feeling defeated, eventually I will break loose from the gravity of the ground and start running.

When I return the already defeated feeling will be gone- and I won't even remember where I left it. In its place the need for a shower and a second cup of coffee. I will discard my clothes (my bad shoulder will ache as I wriggle out of my sports bra) to go stand under the spray of the shower. Layering warm water on the warmth of my body while the coffee seeps and steams dark & alone.

Then the day like smoke, along with all the words in my head, will slip out of my hands.

On Saturday I will take the girls shopping for summer clothes.  Between the questions and the sideway giggles I will wander off to find more books.  Buy at least 5.  Get them home and turn them over in my hand one by one trying to decide where and even if I want to begin again.

Eco. "There are books on our shelves we haven't read and doubtless never will, that each of us has probably put to one side in the belief that we will read them later on, perhaps even in another life."

Then I will picture him smiling at me, my copy of Auden in his hands. 

"Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm;" 

I will remember us: "I brought your book. I thought you might need it tonight," He said, offering it to me as I stood in the doorway of the trauma bay.  My hands shoved deep into the pockets of my white lab coat. My hospital ID hopelessly tangled against my hastily refreshed scrubs. "Yes Dear, but if you are here, then we don't need Auden, do we?"

Then I will pick a place to start over. One foot in front of the other; one page at a time.

"Once the bonfires are blazing how they became lit becomes inconsequential in comparison to how close you were standing when the flames took hold. Your cape is on fire, this is no time for skipping, little girl." mlb, Pillars of Gomorrah 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

mixed media: Finding Vivian Maier

"A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one of the most accomplished street photographers."

who thought, mlb

Who thought it was a good idea to lock them all away?

Hold them from the light.
Tell them to sit still.
Tell them not to run.

How did we let this happen?
Chain childhood to Pavlov's dog.
Caged, down long hallways, behind closed doors.

Who thought this right? Who thought this the way forward?
Bricks better than mothers.
Lines better than sand.

Who thought they could live with all summer in one day?
Told what to wonder about.
Told how to play.

Who thought it was a good idea to lock them all away?